This is an amazing song from a movie called Late Summer Blues (בלוז לחופש הגדול). It translates to something like, “Yosi, my quality child”. In the movie, a young soldier named Yosi gets recruited into the paratroopers unit in the IDF and is killed in a training exercise. His friends sing this song for him at an end-of-school assembly.
This is an interesting song I encountered one day in the army. They were doing a little educational thing about the Six Day War (1967) and they played this song and I was totally captivated by the accordian that gives the song its character. That’s what caught me at first, but then it turned out that the melodies in the song were really interesting also, and I started asking people, “What’s this song? Who’s it by?” And everyone was just like, “It’s the Six Day War song”. Apparently this song – which is actually called “Ammunition Hill” if you translate it – is the song everyone associates with the Six Day War. Indeed, it is about the Six Day War.
The video above is good because you get the full English translation of the lyrics as well as footage from the war or places from the war. Altogether, it gives a very good ‘feel’ of the IDF in a way, especially if you understand Hebrew. Sure, a lot of what we do isn’t very glorious (and the song actually doesn’t really glorify anything…) and it’s rarely every as tuneful, but there’s a vibe that I can relate to now in this song after being in the IDF for a while. I’ll probably relate to it even more by the time I’m done.
So, this is a video I saw a couple weeks ago while I was hanging out with one of my friends from the army in his town, Zichron Ya’akov. Everybody gathered around someone’s iPod and laughed as they watched it – I’m assuming it’s been making the rounds with the Israeli youth who can all, of course, personally relate to it.
The title of the song translates to “The Most Beautiful [Girl] In Infantry”, and it’s a jokey song about a girl soldier in infantry. In it, the singer, Noam Barak, sings about how beautiful this girl in infantry is, with her machine gun and her battle-vest pressing against her breasts.
While the image of a hot chick soldier is something of a fantasy for us in North America, in Israel you see them on the street everyday, and the amount of them who are downright stunning is confounding. Unfortunately, they seem to have managed to fit all the not-good-looking ones in this video, leaving the rest out…
So, Nancy Ajram isn’t actually an obscure artist – the Lebanese pop star is a big deal in her home country supposedly, but for us non-Arabic Westerners, she is considerably less known. But here’s a good question: why is a blog that focuses on indie rock blogging about a straight up pop artist? Well, because Lebanese pop is far enough removed from our version of pop that some of it actually sounds pretty cool.
I only know a couple of Ajram’s songs, but there are two in particular that I’ve become a bit addicted to and wanted to blog about. The first one is “Fi Hagat”, which is a sprawling melodramatic masterpiece, alternating between soft, sensual sections and something of a smooth grind, all throughout managing to be hugely melodic and brilliantly colourful. From watching the video (which has 32+ million hits on youtube) I gather the song is about romance or something, but I really have no idea (I can only hope it’s not a song about hating Jews ). And Ajram’s Arabic make the vocals sound smooth and, again, amazingly sensual.
The second song of hers I’ve found that really impressed me was “Kol Ma Teddy”, a straight up electronic dance floor banger. So what makes this any different than the typical dance bangers we hear in North America? Mainly the glistening, gliding Middle Eastern-strings that punctuate the song amidst bright, bubbly synths. By any standard, this is beautiful, well produced, and well arranged tune-smithery. I’ve been listening to these songs for weeks and figured it was high time I posted something about them, so here.
Unfortunately, not all of Ajram’s music is as good as this: a lot of her songs really do sound like plastic crap with lame production, but I do encourage others to dig through the considerable amount of stuff she’s released and if you want, let me know what else to check out.
Amazing that after all this time and so many album J. Spaceman can still make as excellent and touching an album as this one. The guy doesn’t even really do much different, he just does it really, really well.
4. Julia Holter – Ekstasis
I’ve been a fan of Holter since Live Tapes, but on Ekstasis she finally pulls all her shit together to make an artful masterpiece full of hooks. If only it didn’t have that annoying “Goddess’ Eyes”…twice…
3. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Though not as focused and incontestable as Bitte Orca, Swing Lo Magellan continued the Dirty Projectors‘ winning streak with a collection of songs that were consistently innovative and auditorally delightful.
2. Grimes – Visions
Perhaps the single biggest breakout of the year – though Grimes‘ previous releases displayed her unique sound and vision and were recognized as such, Visions saw her leaping far ahead to create a fully cohesive and original work of art-pop that exceeded expectatiions across the board. For most artists as young as the 24-year-old Grimes, one would say they would forward to hearing what’s next – with Grimes of course we all do, but to in any way suggest that this album is less than the work of an already great, matured artist would be unjust.
1. Beach House – Bloom
The little guitar and organ duo that could do it again, following up the hugely lauded Teen Dream with an LP perhaps just as good, if not in some ways better. The minimalist rock duo approach has been a no-biggie since The White Stripes broke shit down in the early aughts, but Beach House show again how incredible a band can sound by making the most of a few tools in their pocket to maximum effect. And the melodies! The vocals! The guitar sounds! The lyrics! Overall, just another really, really great album from the Baltimore duo.
So weird to think 2012 is coming to a close. It doesn’t feel like it at all, what with no Holiday break, no Christmas stuff, no New Years parties to look forward to, etc. They just don’t care about New Years here in Israel. Kind of a shame…BUT what’s not a shame, is how many awesome albums came out this year.So today I’m dropping the Gold Soundz pick for 10-6 and tomorrow 5-1.
Originally this was a lot longer, but I didn’t have time to write long things for all of them so it’s just like a line or two per album
10. Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action At A Distance
A phenomally strong album of great, shoegaze-pop songs that will force everyone to reconsider how large a role he plays in Deerhunter‘s awesomeness. But even if we were to forget the Deerhunter connection for a second, this is an album that would stand out anyway. Cuz it’s great.
9. Sleigh Bells – Reign Of Terror
Sleigh Bells go pop and the result is something along the lines of The Jesus And Mary Chain fronted by a real badass chick. Loved this album big times.
8. Crystal Castles – (III)
My hometown electro-goths went witchhouse and made their best and most consistent album yet. Another solid accomplishment from a band that continues to surprise and impress.
7. Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t
A true pop masterpiece, Jens Lekman‘s album scores huge on melodies and lyrics on this, his third album. Also, a goldmine of great lines like “No, I hate bands/It’s always packed with guys spooning their girlfriends and clutching their hands/As if they let, they could lift from the ground and ascend.”
6. John Maus – A Collection Of Rarities And Previously Unreleased Material
No other artist interviews as interestingly as John Maus – the man is an astounding intellect, and furthermore, as his albums display, a fine pop tunesmith. Very surprisingly, this collection of rare and unreleased material might actually be his best release yet, with song after song of hummable melodies and often confounding lyrics.
So, the words and visuals on this YouTube clip are totally insane, but please don’t think I am, I just feel like they’re so crazy that they’re actually really interesting.
So what’s the deal with this song? It’s supposedly some sort of ‘Kabala song’ or something, but here’s the weird thing, this summer I was sitting around the pool on my Kibbutz with a bunch of other people around my age. The radio is on the pool PA, playing whatever radio stations play (pop music bullshit mostly), and suddenly this song – which I’d heard before – comes on the station (nobody switched it over to a Hareidi station while we weren’t looking) and not only do the other twenty-somethings not get weirded out by it, but they’re singing along with it! Apparently it’s a somewhat well-known song here, though I’d never heard it in any Jewish institution in Canada before, nor even when I was here last year actually learning about Kabala at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
In any case – it’s a beautiful, beautiful song, both melodically and lyrically. One thing I like about a lot of the religious music here that’s in Hebrew is that it’s really honest-sounding, it doesn’t sound like bullshit or ‘sing for Jesus’ or some shit, it’s like legit, you know? Not to say I’m always the biggest fan of the religious people here, but no matter what a song is about, legitimacy is legit, so I will give them that.
I don’t really know anything about this guy Benny Bashan – nor will I bother looking anything up for this – but this song is interesting. The guy sounds like the Israeli version of Jonathan Richman, and the song fits that: it’s like this dude saying how great this girl but it’s kind of done in a funny, idiotic way, almost sarcastically, and there also seems to be kind of an absurdist bent to the song. Like, for instance, here are the first couple lines in translation:
This song by renown Israeli rock artistShlomo Artzi was played for my Hebrew class a couple weeks ago. I don’t know how everybody felt about it, but I really liked it. I think it might actually sound kind of lame if you can’t understand the words, but if you don’t speak Hebrew, trust me, it’s a pretty song. The title means “It Appears To You…” and it’s about like two young people falling in love for the first time and suddenly the world is a beautiful place. Nothing political or exclusively Israeli about it – just a pretty song about people falling in love.
I’ve been living in Israel for about four months now, and since I’ve been here I’ve been immersed in an entirely new musical world. In Israel, you’ve got a whole bunch of different cultures – Jewish, Christian, Arab, Religious, Secular – all living in close quarters with eachother, often peacefully, sometimes not so much. It’s not like in Canada where all cultures kind of submit themselves to a common secular identity, at least in public – here, one’s culture is worn on one’s face, one’s clothes, one’s tongue, and in one’s music. And it’s exciting. Somtime’s it can even be a little overwhelming.
Whenever I post here, it’s not going to be a big cultural commentary, but usually just like a short, Tumblr-esque post of a new song that I found interesting – maybe not even good – and just a quick explanation of that song’s context in the culture. It might be a chassidic techno song – it might be beloved a Druzee song – it might be just a classic Israeli pop song from the country’s early days.
Anyways, I’m going to start with just a classic Jewish chant/song called “עוד אבינו חי” (“Our Father Still Lives”) or “עם ישראל חי” (“The Nation Of Israel Still Lives”) – those are the two lines in the song, I’m not sure if it has an official title – which for me is a very important and beautiful song. In Israel and most of the Jewish world everybody knows this song. People will break out into it during Holidays, rallies, protests, sometimes just given the right context. It’s a very happy song, and given the context of Jewish history – the old joke is ‘they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat’ – is very triumphant. But it’s also got a Biblical basis – the story is that when Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to beg the brother they sold into slavery years ago for help during a famine, he at first toyed with them because they didn’t even recognize him anymore, and also probably couldn’t believe that from a slave he had risen to a high post in Pharaoh’s kingdom. But after a bit he revealed that it was in fact, he, their brother, that they were talking to the whole time, and he asked his brothers, “Is our father still alive?” and they answered, “Yes, our father still lives,” which is of course, half the song and maybe the title of the song.
Most people don’t actually talk too much about this, but if you read that part of the Bible with the whole story of Joseph and his brothers coming to Egypt to beg for food, there’s a really heartwrenching theme of father-son-brother love. I don’t want to get too into it, but, for example, in Genesis 46:30, there’s one line that gets me, and it’s after Jacob comes down to the land of Goshen and sees Joseph again after thinking for so many years that he was dead, he says, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.”
The other half of the song where you sing that the nation of Israel still lives is just like that the nation or the children of Israel (Jacob, Israel was his other name…) continues to live.
So basically, the song is about those things: continuity, what’s passed on from father to son, and the love between the two that lasts forever.